Paro Airport Incident – Tip of the Iceberg?

Tandin Wangchuk, Thimphu


The recent incident at the Paro international airport, where one pilot and two flight attendants’ urines tested positive for alleged consumption of controlled substances has not only raised the eyebrows of security agencies. It has also added authenticity to unconfirmed reports and words on the rumor mill that Paro airport is used as a gateway for hard drug trafficking and that some people working at the airport are involved.

Bhutan airlines

While there has been no report on what substance that the three alleged consumers had used, observers including those who had purchased hard drugs like Yaba, from staff of the airports coming from Bangkok are definite that the three would have consumed hard drugs. “It is definitely not Spasmoproxypon (SP) or Nitrosun-10 (N 10). The three must have taken harder drugs,” a freelance guide based in Paro said. In an earlier story that The Journalist covered, he had said that he pays Nu 1,500 per gram of Yaba. “If you have money, there is nothing that you cannot get,” he said, adding that it is difficult for the police and other agencies to catch the ones smuggling in these substances.

“Those coming from Phuentsholing with banned substances like SP and N 10 are easily caught due to information that the Royal Bhutan Police get from consumers and dealers. But when it comes to harder drugs coming from Bangkok, Kolkatta and even Siliguri, how will the RBP get information. Moreover, these substances can be easily concealed,” a young hotelier said. “For instance, I can easily smuggle in more than half kilograms of brown sugar by concealing it in my ass,” he added. While lauding the RBP’s efforts in cracking down substance abuse and trade in Thimphu, Paro and other urban areas, he said that the “real drugs” are flowing in from Paro. “I am saying real drugs because what come from Paro are hard drugs like brown sugar, yaba, cocaine, ecstasy and even acid,” he said.

An employee at the airport said that he heard about substance abuse and drug trafficking, where few employees were said to be involved. “I did not take it seriously and thought that most of them must have just tried the substances and brought it because of requests from friends, who also wanted to try.” However, he said that if what people say is true, actions should be taken immediately. “The RBP, Bhutan Narcotics Control Agency (BNCA), Department of Air Transport and other related agencies should come together. We are already facing youth problems and if hard drugs are entering the country, it is very dangerous and a wakeup call,” he said.

The three accused tested positive on June 29, 2017, when the BNCA, Department of Air Transport and the Bhutan Civil Aviation Authority conducted an ad-hoc test of 78 crew members. In an interview with Bhutan’s daily paper, Bhutan Airlines’ Managing Director had said that the Airlines’ crew had taken medication for rashes and cough. He also said that the crew should now get a letter from the BNCA before he gets back to his job.

Meanwhile, minister for Information and Communication (MoIC), Lyonpo DN Dungel had said that as the case is the first of the kind, no penalties were imposed.

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